A Soldotna construction company has settled with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for $130,000 after an unauthorized injection well was discovered on the property.
North Star Paving and Construction had a well at its maintenance shop near Knight Drive that drained vehicle waste from the shop into an oil-water separator, then leach field in the ground.
It was likely on the property for several decades. But those types of wells were banned in 2000, since the chemicals can impact groundwater. Alaska required all wells of that type to be removed by 2005.
A consulting firm found the well over a year ago when it was hired by a potential property buyer to do an environmental assessment there.
“Actually, a pretty common way that things are found," said Suzanne Skadowski, the public affairs manager for the region of the EPA that includes Alaska. She said the consultant then sent its findings to the state.
Peter Cambpell, project manager for the state’s contaminated sites program, said they discovered contaminated groundwater near the well. The floor drain was connected to a tank that was supposed to separate water from oils and greases.
“But it was, from what I understand, never used properly in that there wasn’t any water in it on a regular basis," he said.
As a result, more chemicals seeped into the ground.
The well is above a community water supply for Soldotna. But Campbell said that supply is 163 feet deep and is in a confined aquifer.
“I don’t think there’s any chance that that’s been impacted, and it is sampled regularly," he said.
There are also several business wells nearby. Campbell doesn’t think those would have been impacted, either. He also said it would be virtually impossible for the Kenai River — located less than a mile away — to be impacted by the contamination.
North Star didn’t respond to requests for comment. But Campbell said the owner did have knowledge of the well, since they had floor drains in the shop. It’s not clear why they didn’t remove it, or whether they knew it was illegal.
EPA inspector Donna Ortiz said the prospective property buyers have gone through with the sale but are avoiding the area around the contaminated site until it’s fully cleaned up. North Star has already removed the well and a few hundred yards of soil.
“They’re very interested in getting this done as soon as possible because they wanted to sell the property and then go into a retirement,"she said.
Campbell said the state is continually testing the groundwater in the area.